Israeli police video shows officer killed in suspected ramming
JERUSALEM — A police officer was killed in southern Israel on Wednesday in a suspected ramming attack ahead of protests against the demolition of Bedouin Arab homes, police said, but a police video raises questions about what exactly happened.
The suspected attacker was shot dead.
Police say 34-year-old Erez Levi was among police carrying out security for the demolition of 15 buildings in the Negev Desert village of Umm al-Hiran, where the nomadic Bedouin have built structures that Israel’s High Court ruled illegal. Levi was killed when police say the Bedouin man rammed his car into the officers.
The alleged assailant, 50-year-old Ya’akub Musa Abu Al-Qi’an, was shot and killed.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri says Abu Al-Qi’an was a member of the Islamist movement of southern Israel, and police are investigating possible links to ISIS. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attacker may have been an ISIS sympathizer.
Levi was posthumously promoted to First Sergeant.
Police: Aerial video shows incident
A video from a police helicopter shows a wide angle of the scene.
The police video, posted on YouTube by The Times of Israel, appears to show the driver slowly moving the car forward along a dirt road. A police officer can be seen in the video firing approximately three times. From the video, the shots appear to be in the direction of the car. Only after the shots were fired does the car accelerate and, seconds later, hit a group of police officers before the car turns sharply to the right.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Twitter that the shots were warning shots fired into the air.
“The car drove toward the officers, the officers called him to stop and when he continued, they fired into the air in order to stop the car. And then the driver sharply diverted the steering wheel and sped quickly in order to run over the group of police officers,” Erdan tweeted. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incident is under investigation.
Adalah, a legal organization representing the Bedouin villagers, disputes the police version of events.
“Eyewitnesses have confirmed that Abu Al-Qi’an was trying to leave the village and lost control of his car only after police fired at him,” Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen said.
Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab Joint List Party, was also injured in the demonstrations, he told Israel’s Army Radio.
“The police forces came, about 1,000 police officers, and attacked the people in Umm al-Hiran,” he said, in a characterization denied by police.
Umm al-Hiran has been the subject of a 13-year legal battle over the fate of the Bedouin village. Israel’s High Court ruled that the village could be demolished to make way for the construction of the Israeli city of Hiran. The Bedouins had lived in Umm al-Hiran for 60 years after they were initially removed from their native villages in 1948, Jabareen said.
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel told Israel’s Army Radio the government was negotiating with the Bedouin families until late Tuesday night, offering them replacement lots in the nearby village of Hura.
“We already developed a neighborhood [for the Bedouin families],” said Yair Maayan, CEO of the Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority in the Negev.
“We have there about 150 properties. That’s enough for all the families.”
Some 40 families have already moved from Umm al-Hiran to Hura, Maayan said, while the government continued negotiations with the other families to join them.
“Last night, they came here to sign on this contract to move to Hura, but they canceled it and they didn’t want to do it,” Maayan said.
Israeli authorities have carried out regular demolitions of Bedouin homes they say have been built illegally, according to Human Rights Watch. They say Israel fails to recognize Bedouin villages and makes it incredibly difficult for Bedouin to obtain building permits.
Maayan says, of the approximately 50,000 illegal Bedouin structures in Israel, approximately 70% will be legalized in their current locations over the next 5 to 7 years. Another 20% will be moved less than half a mile, while the remaining 10%, including Umm al-Hiran, will be moved to alternative locations.
The Bedouin make up around 200,000 people of Israel’s population of 8.6 million.
The incident follows a similar attack on January 8 in Jerusalem, when a Palestinian driver plowed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four and injuring at least 10 others.